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Report on the Third Africa Think Tanks Summit

Isidore Kpotufe, Head of IMANI Francophone at IMANI Africa represented IMANI’s Founding President, Franklin Cudjoe at the Third Africa Think Tank Summit held in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe from 8-9 April 2016. He reports on what transpired at the Summit. 

Reported by Isidore Kpotufe | IMANI Africa


The Africa Think Tank Summit is an annual event that is aimed at facilitating collaboration and knowledge-sharing among African think tanks and connecting think tanks with policymakers throughout the continent. The maiden edition of the Africa Think Tank Summit was held in Pretoria, South Africa from 3-5 February 2014.

The Concept of the Africa Think Tank Submit originated from the successful execution of the G20 Think Tank Conference held in Philadelphia in June of 2012.

The third edition of the Africa Think Tank Summit took place from 8-9 April 2016 in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe under the theme:  Creating a Sustainable Future for African Think Tanks in Support of SDGs and Agenda 2063 implementation”.  Its main objective was to build on the recommendations of the Second Africa Think Tank Summit, and offer a practical roadmap for think tanks to help countries implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Agenda 2063. The Second Africa Think Tank Summit held in April 2015, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia explored the ways in which Africa’s think tanks are currently making a difference in the continent’s transformation and how they can practically contribute to the implementation of regional development programmes.

The Third edition was organised by the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) in partnership with the African Union Commission (AUC), the NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

The theme: Creating a Sustainable Future for African Think Tanks in Support of SDGs and Agenda 2063 Implementation”. 

2015 was a critical year for global development – it witnessed the ending of the 15-year time frame for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the beginning of the next 15 year time frame for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or “Agenda 2030” and the adoption of Africa’s Agenda 2063 (launched in 2013). For Africa, SDGs’ priorities conformed to Africa’s own development blueprint, Agenda 2063. These global and regional development agendas lay out an ambitious but achievable way forward for Africa; one that will require the concerted efforts of all of Africa’s intellectual resources to accomplish. It was on this backdrop that the Third Africa Think Tank Summit was held.

It was a multi-format event and brought together over 60 participants from across the continent.


The Summit was opened with a Press conference for the organising partners who note the convergence of Agenda 2063 and Agenda 2030 and the importance of building the necessary capacity for their effective implementation.  This is because despite over a decade-long history of development planning, many African countries continue to experience challenges in designing, implementing and monitoring their development planning frameworks. Prof Emmanuel Nnadozie of the ACBF noted that Capacity remains an issue when it comes to development planning in many parts of Africa. Thus, the existence of the ACBF which provides funding and capacity building resources to development actors in Africa is justified. The other panellists also acknowledged the importance of think tanks in Africa’s transformation. In conclusion, all the panellists agreed that capacity and funding remain the biggest challenges facing African think tanks.

The Press Conference was followed by a Keynote speech by Mr. Abdoulie Janneh, Chair of the Africa Governance, Institute Governing Board and former Executive Secretary of the UNECA. Mr. Abdoulie Janneh noted that the coherent implementation of both the SDGs and the continental Agenda 2063 will pose a challenge for policymakers in Africa. He was of the view that many African countries continue to experience challenges in designing, implementing and monitoring their development planning frameworks as a result of the lack of technical capacity. He mentioned that the success of the global and continental Agendas will require adequate and strengthened capacities as well as the need to integrate these Agendas in National Development frameworks. He also mentioned that Policy makers ought to begin to adopt an evidence-based and data-oriented approach to Policy making.

First panel discussion: Thought Leaders’ Panel – The Capacity Imperatives for Implementing SDGs and Agenda 2063 and their Integration into National Development Plans

Just like previous speakers, Dr Anthony Mothae Maruping (African Union Commission); Dr Ibrahim Mayaki (NEPAD); Prof Emmanuel Nnadozie (ACBF); Dr. Abdalla Hamdok (UNECA); H.E Newai Gebre-ab (EDRI); Dr. Mohamed Edrees (Assistant Egyptian Foreign Minister for African affairs, Egypt); Prof Lemma Senbet (AERC); Dr Yemi Dipeolu (Special Economic Adviser to the Nigerian President) recognised that thinks tanks can and should play an important role in actively engaging and developing methodologies to guide member states in integrating Agenda 2063 and Agenda 2030 in their national planning frameworks. They all agreed that the African Union Commission (AUC) has the responsibility of providing member States and other stakeholders with Guidelines and toolkits that could promote standardised methods of integrating the global and regional agendas and enhance cross country comparisons of performance. Indeed, they reaffirm that think tanks should contribute to the analytical work regarding the inter-linkages across the SDGs and Agenda 2063’s goals and targets and identify the areas of convergence and divergence that need attention.

Tracking Progress and Performance on previous Summit Recommendations

The Second Africa Think Tank Summit set ambitious yet achievable targets to be met by the organisers, the participants and other stakeholders including Governments.

Dr Roger Atindehou of the ACBF was tasked to give updates on the targets and recommendations that were agreed at the Second Africa Think Tank Summit. He said to ensure that the Summit recommendations and targets were met, ACBF set up committees to monitor their implementation. He said that many of the recommended actions are currently underway noting the African Think Tank Network in particular. Other projects currently under way are The African Research Collaboration Facility and funding to think tanks in order to upgrade their capacity.

Second Panel discussion – Making Think Tanks Fit-for-Purpose (attention to manufacturing, industrialization, value addition, and economic diversification)

For think tanks to demonstrate their relevance and value, they have to find a method that ensures financial sustainability to allow them to focus on pertinent research that leads to effective development policies in Africa: this formed the basis of the second panel discussion at the Summit. The panellists: Dr John Okidi (Think Tank Initiative); Ms Brigitte Junker (SIDA); Dr Dickson Khainga (KIPPRA); Ms. Aida Opoku-Mensah (UNECA); Ambassador Susan D. Page (U.S. Mission to the African Union) and Dr Ebrima Sall (Executive Director of (CODESRIA) all agreed that think tanks must produce content that directly relate to Africa’s challenges whilst proving practical solutions for surmounting those challenges. They also agreed that for think tanks to remain relevant and capture policy makers’ attention, they should continuously scan their environment in order to predict geo-political, economic and socio-cultural changes that would call for adaptation. Here again, the issue of capacity was evoked as one of the main challenges for think tanks’ inability to relate to challenges having to do with Africa’s economic transformation.

Other interventions

Aside panel discussions and keynote speeches there were break-out sessions on Strategic interventions, Path to think tanks sustainable future and Implementation road map. The three breakout sessions posited that think tanks can fully carry out their role in supporting the implementation of Agenda 2063 and Agenda 2030 only if they have the necessary capacities and resources, and are able to effectively channel well-packaged, relevant, timely and quality outputs to policymakers. Delegates expressed profound concern that the resources allocated by donors to African think tanks are shrinking along the years. They emphasised the need to build individual and collective capacities of think tanks towards their sustainable existence and called upon the AUC, NEPAD, ACBF, UNECA and other supporters of think tanks to help in mobilising resources towards building this essential capacity in order to sustainably and effectively contribute to the successful implementation of Agenda 2063 and Agenda 2030.

IMANI’s Participation

Isidore Kpotufe represented IMANI’s Founding President at the summit. He spoke on the topic: “Innovative Think tanks: what to look at in Africa”. In his presentation, Isidore noted the historical role of think tanks in Policy conception, implementation and evaluation. He said think tanks can be innovative in three ways: Innovative Content, Innovative Public Engagement and Innovative Funding Sources. To demonstrate their relevance, he said think tanks must produce content that appeal to a wide range of audience, notably Government, Private Sector and the Media. In his concluding remarks, Isidore Kpotufe advocated for the establishment of an African Think Tank Index. He also recommended the setting up of a Private Sector Pooled Funds to support the work of think tanks. Isidore also argued that think tanks need a legal and regulatory framework that gives them backing and recognises their work, especially when it comes National Policy Formulation.

Isidore Kpotufe is Head of IMANI Francophone at IMANI Africa.


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